Arsenal supporters are worried about a trip to the South Coast to face Southampton in St. Mary’s stadium for the early match on Sunday and for good reason: not only are Arsenal just 2-2-1 in the last five trips there but Southampton’s home stats combined with Arsenal’s away form mean that this could be a tricky tie for the Gunners.
Throwing out the historical results, because the teams are radically different from 2014, we take a look at this year’s underlying stats.
Offensively, Southampton at home take more shots (16-14) , score more goals (1.3 – 1.1), have better shots in closer areas (4 SiP to 3), than Arsenal do away this season.
However, Arsenal are more accurate (4.7 shots on goal to 3.5) and create more Big Chances (2 to 1.5) than the Saints. Big Chances are more important than “SiP”, which is shots in prime, because they are the clear cut chances that score about half of a team’s goals.
That said, both teams create about the exact same in terms of what we call “expected goals” with 1.7. The reason for this is that Southampton create a lot of chances in close to goal but they come off set plays or when the opponents have the box packed. Southampton are 4the in the League in headed shots with 2.5 per game and 7th in the League in shots from set plays with 3.5 per game.
Southampton TRY to get goals off set pieces but they have yet to score a set play goal (0 for 30) and have just 2 off headers in general. I suspect they will test Arsenal off corners and free kicks in this match – will their bad luck hold out?
For Arsenal’s part, they need to be efficient in this match. Southampton’s defense is stingy both in terms of goals allowed (1.1 per game) and in terms of the goals we expect them to concede (0.9 per game). This flows from the fact that they are excellent at stopping opponents playing against them.
How they do that? I can’t tell. They aren’t a top tackling team (12th), intercepting team (17th), or pass blocking team (9th), they don’t foul (11th), block shots (13th), or even clear the ball a lot (13th).
One clue to their home form might be down to teams faced: they haven’t played a top attacking team at home all season. Their only other top 6 side that they faced was Man U and Mourinho’s side scored a single goal off a single big chance on 9 total shots and absconded in the middle of the night with the points.
All things considered, my model gives this a 1-1 draw. FiveThirtyEight gives Arsenal a 54% chance of a win and just a 23% chance of a draw. So, I guess I’m bucking the big brains.
Sources: my personal database, FiveThirtyEight.com